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Karl Lagerfeld conjures a forest of melancholic beauty
Chanel's Autumn/Winter 2018 show transformed the Grand Palais in Paris into a poetic forest of bare trees and fallen leaves ©Imaxtree
“All those autumn colours of browns and golds… I love an Indian summer,” said Karl Lagerfeld of a Chanel show that made its statement before a single golden leather boot had stepped out on a carpet of leaves under the canopy of thin, bare trees.
The invitation to the Chanel Autumn/Winter 2018 show had a painting of one of those thousands of autumnal leaves that covered the floor of the Grand Palais. And from the first moment that the models crunched over the countrified area in dark, linear coats, perhaps decorated with a wrist of black feathers, there was that sense of sadness that begins as summer slips away.
“The beautiful sadness of a beautiful fall?” I asked Karl backstage, where Marc Jacobs was hugging the designer and saying that the Chanel show had made his trip from America worthwhile.
“I prefer ‘melancholy’,” Karl replied to my question. And so it was, as the young models, hair drawn up the better to see their mismatching earrings, walked the fashion path of quiet quality. And in spite of my feeling that the overall shade was a faded brown, in fact the suits might be in a green check or worn with a bright pink sweater tied at the neck and a matching rose handbag. There were even flower-pattern mixes with pink flowers on a blue background and model-of-the-moment Kaia Gerber wore fuchsia opera gloves with her little black dress.
But this was definitely a low-key Chanel show, and although its forest backdrop followed on from the streams of running water in the Spring/Summer 2018 Ready-to-Wear show six months ago, it felt more sober, almost elegiac.
I am obsessed, this autumn fashion season, with the feeling of the end of something. Or in a more prosaic definition: the end of the short, sexy, thigh-revealing dresses that have been with us throughout the new millennium. This is not a post-Weinstein reaction, but rather a new mood.
In fact, Chanel had a few brief hemlines, the legs mostly filled in with gilded boots. But there were a lot of ankle-skimming skirts, mostly slim, but with a scattering of full and wide silhouettes. Karl made many of those clothes beautiful with leaves in quiet colours glistening on coats or dresses. What the Chanel staff can create with their magical handcraft is always impressive.
But something was happening – a quiet foreboding – seen in many other collections. As this four-week fashion season draws to its close, the designers who count seem to be telling us that a cold wind of change is in the air.
Karl Lagerfeld takes a bow at the close of his show for Chanel Autumn/Winter 2018 ©Imaxtree